BY ANDY COLLIDGE
What a world we live in, overstating almost everything, with entire social groups applying pressure upon themselves because they read something, heard something, or some media ass**** said something. Pressures that are not actually real, but, for an awful lot of people nowadays, an actuality that they seem to have to adhere to; their mindset overruled by the concept that it is hip to do it.
Observing the different people and their immediate, ongoing and fashionable needs, is something that initially I enjoyed doing (I own a hotel and pub), but now I grimace at how ridiculous some people are. The phrase ‘Allergic’ is now becoming the fad of the decade, with people informing the world that they are allergic to a whole variety of things, from gluten to lactose, from nuts to fruit (fructose), from eggs to seafood, all of which are more than possible and could be the cause of a very serious condition, but, for a select number, are used as a game to hanker for self-indulgence in a restaurant or other public place.
I have witnessed on more than one occasion, a person stating that they are lactose intolerant and so could the chicken and mushroom crepe be cooked using no dairy. This we adhered to, with the chef painstakingly creating the meal to the customer’s request and requirements, having been advised of their condition. On completion of the main course, the ‘sweet board’ is placed on the table for the perusal of the customers. The lady who stated she could not tolerate lactose, chose the bread and butter pudding and custard for desert! On stating that there was lactose in her choice, she informed me that ‘custard was okay’.
We have had people on a gluten-free diet ordering beer-battered cod and chips, lactose free ordering chocolate chip ice cream, I have even had somebody inform me they are allergic to eggs, unless they are scrambled; now how the hell does that work?
Kids, now they seem to have an intolerance to so many things – mostly vegetables and salad, and other things green. The parents even say the words for them, when the reality is their kid doesn’t like them, that’s all – creating so much fuss when told they must eat them. The adult then electing the easy option tries to condone the inadequacy with the words that makes everything alright – he’s allergic to it.
Then you get to the people that actually think there’s something wrong with them. Some of these have been diagnosed with a gastro or bowel problem that is not life-threatening, then are left to search the internet for the cure, as there is often little medical support for these conditions. These people are desperately trying to move forward with their lives, fumbling around in a world full of intolerance to hopefully ease their medical situation. From my observations, these people are often very sincere in their approach to the foods they can and cannot eat, not wishing to draw attention to themselves, quietly asking the relevant questions they need to ask.
Please do not confuse these people with the hypochondriacs. Let’s be brutally honest on this one, here in Britain there is a huge core of people, that if their eye waters, it’s off to the doctors, not being able to get a tissue and dab it dry. Medical advice is the only way forward. Personally, I think these people have a whole social network linked up to waste NHS funds. It used to be, let’s meet in town for a coffee – now it’s off up to the surgery for a social gathering. Some of them occasionally seem happy when they are told there is something actually wrong with them.
Then you come across the customer that, at the beginning of the evening, is totally allergic to something, but then after a few drinks, the condition disappears and they are eating whatever they like. The cheese and biscuit scenario is the main one here: dairy-free at the starter to who gives a s**t by dessert. Alcohol is an amazing cure for many things, if only the Health Service could distribute it.
Finally, you get the individuals who are on the fashion trip, nothing wrong with them at all, but read way too deeply into various media articles and then convince themselves they must cut certain foods out or they will be ill. This sect in our Great British population have a problem, because common sense is not applied to their thinking. It’s all about what a celebrity or best friend is doing; nothing to do with rationality, health or sickness; just the latest trend.
Well, my Mum always told me ‘everything in moderation, and you will be fine’. My Dad however said, ‘nothing exceeds excess like excess’. Now which one of those do you choose? I have tried both and to be totally honest, they both have their merits and they both have their failings.
So, to round the whole argument up, there are of course people who are genuinely ‘allergic’,’ intolerant’, even ‘sensitive to’ certain food stuffs and these people have an ongoing battle to find nutrition that suits their condition. However, I would estimate, from what I have seen, that this is probably about half of the percentage that claim to have a problem. The other half, well, they just don’t like certain foods and instead of being honest with themselves and others around them, use the word ALLERGIC. Very sad I conclude, but just another sign of the inadequate times we live in. Even as I write, someone is sipping tea through a straw, probably thinking it will stop their teeth staining. Really? Probably allergic to getting their lips wet.
Andy Collidge was raised in Pershore, Worcestershire, then moved to Hertfordshire aged 14. Andy had careers in the Police Force and Fire Brigade, then later in sales. Now, with his wife, Andy owns a successful hotel in the Devon heartlands with an acclaimed restaurant. Although not a Devonian, Andy now regards the county very much as home. Andy has written 6 books, three that are published, with two more coming out this year.